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Field Level Media - Professional sports content solutions | FLM

Mar 23, 2024 5:40 pm

Cavaliers, Heat missing key pieces entering rematch

Garland Heat

The Miami Heat, who have lost six of their past nine games, are set to host the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday night.

Miami (38-32) is only 17-16 at home and entered the weekend outside of the guaranteed top-six playoff spots in the Eastern Conference.

For context, the Heat went 27-14 at home last season.

While it doesn’t answer why the Heat have been better on the road (21-16) this season, the team has suffered several injuries. In Friday’s 111-88 home loss to the New Orleans Pelicans, Miami was without Duncan Robinson (back), Tyler Herro (foot), Kevin Love (foot) and Josh Richardson (shoulder).

In fact, the Heat have already used a franchise-record 34 starting lineups this season. Entering Saturday, only Memphis (42) and Portland (37) had used more.

Another issue is Miami’s shooting. Friday, the Heat missed 34 3-point attempts and made just 27.7 percent (13 of 47).

Without Herro and Robinson to hit 3-pointers, the Pelicans had an advantage.

“They were packing the paint and staying in a zone,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said, “and I would have, too.”

To compensate, Heat center Bam Adebayo has become a long-distance threat. He has made at least one 3-pointer in five straight games, shooting 6-of-7 from deep. Before this run, he had only made nine 3-pointers in 472 career games.

The Heat are also getting 3-pointers from unusual sources such as Cole Swider, who went 4-for-6 against New Orleans, and Thomas Bryant, who went 2-for-2.

Bryant, a seldom-used reserve, has played just 33 games this season.

Swider, who is on a two-way contract, had made just eight career 3-pointers before Friday.

Cleveland (43-27) entered the weekend in firm playoff position but have lost two straight games, including a 107-104 home loss to Miami on Wednesday.

On Friday, the Cavaliers lost on the road, 104-91, to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Like Miami, Cleveland is dealing with injury issues. The Cavaliers are missing starters Donovan Mitchell (broken nose), Evan Mobley (ankle) and ex-Heat wing Max Strus (knee).

“They’re getting closer to returning,” Cavaliers coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “But I can’t give you a projected timetable.”

Mitchell, who has made the All-Star team each of the past five seasons, has been especially missed. He leads Cleveland in scoring (27.4) and steals (1.8) and ranks second in assists (6.1).

Mobley ranks second in rebounds (10.2) and fourth in scoring (15.6).

Strus is second on the team in starts (60) and sixth in scoring (12.2).

Without that trio, Cleveland is relying on starters Jarrett Allen and Darius Garland. Allen is averaging 16.3 points, a team-high 10.8 rebounds and 1.2 blocks. Garland is averaging 18.7 points and a team-high 6.3 assists.

Garland’s shooting is key as he is making 37.0 percent on 3-pointers, 50.9 percent on 2-pointers and 83.5 percent on free throws.

But without their injured starters, the Cavaliers need more production from players such as Isaac Okoro, Caris LeVert and Georges Niang. LeVert, who is averaging 14.0 points, is the key.

Cleveland’s bench includes 3-point shooter Sam Merrill (41.1 percent) and veteran forwards Tristan Thompson and Marcus Morris.

–Field Level Media

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